77 per cent decline in PRS complaints prepares way for new regulations

8 August 2011

Complaints about premium rate telephone services (PRS) have declined by 77% over two years, according to recent figures issued by the UK PRS regulator, PhonepayPlus, in its Annual Report.

Other good news statistics for consumers and industry were a 74% decrease in fines to industry for serious breaches of PhonepayPlus’ Code of Practice in the last financial year, while the market grew from £810 million to £816 million in 2010.

As the UK PRS industry gears up for changes to regulation that come into force on 1 September, the news of growing consumer confidence in PRS was welcomed by the regulator, consumers and industry. PhonepayPlus’ Annual Report 2010/11 highlights the effectiveness of the collaborative regulatory model where the regulator works with the PRS industry to pre-empt consumer harm before it happens, allowing innovation that benefits both consumers and the market while acting swiftly and effectively to clamp down on services and providers that cause problems.

One consumer quoted in the Annual Report comments: ‘In my experience it is unusual to deal with a regulator who is so effective in carrying out their mandate. If they are going to promote ethical behaviour in this area of the service industry then they are doing an exceptionally important job.’ Which?’s Ceri Stanaway applauds PhonepayPlus’ no-nonsense approach to getting redress for consumers as quickly as possible, saying: The rigmarole of a full complaints procedure can put many people off going through it, especially if the harm is relatively small. It’s great that PhonepayPlus has identified a way to help these people out, and make sure that relatively small harm doesn’t go unreported and unresolved.’

Consumer enthusiasm for PhonepayPlus is echoed by PRS providers who work with the regulator. Michael Newsome, Individual Giving Director for UNICEF UK, praises PhonepayPlus’ work in helping UNICEF, the world’s leading children’s charity, set up a text donations service: PhonepayPlus moved heaven and earth … to make this happen. They really pushed the boat out, so now we’re able to go to supporters in a way that we’ve never been able to before … We are hugely grateful.’

PhonepayPlus’ new Code of Practice and first ever industry-wide Registration Scheme aim to build on these successes, ensuring that innovation in the PRS market – for example around apps – maintains good compliance. Joanne Prowse, PhonepayPlus’ Director of Operations said:

‘We are delighted that our work with industry to prevent consumer harm and build consumer confidence from the ground up is paying off. The new Code will give us flexible, outcomes-focused regulation that keeps pace with a fast-moving, technically innovative market and ensures consumer confidence is retained. The Registration Scheme will give both the regulator and industry a clearer view of the market throughout the value-chain and provide more accurate information for consumers via our Number Checker service. We are working hard with industry to ensure that all providers have registered their organisation and services with us by 1 September 2011. We urge any providers who have not already done so to register.’

Notes to editors

1.             PhonepayPlus’ online interactive Annual Report 2010/11 can be read via this link http://www.phonepayplus.org.uk/About-PhonepayPlus/Annual-Report-2010-11.aspx

2.             For more information, contact the PhonepayPlus Press Office on (020) 7940 7440 or email pressoffice@phonepayplus.org.uk